Pittsburgh Confessions

As you approach the tram to take you to the baggage claim area of the Pittsburgh Internation Airport, you are greeted by two statues of approximate life size. On the right is George Washington. You know who he is. On the left is Franco Harris, a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl teams of the 1970s, immortalized in the position of catching the “immaculate reception,” a catch that catapulted the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory. For once, an airport got it right. This juxtaposition sums up something about the city. Probably just that they like football.

First Confession. I apparently drive like a maniac. Montreal does that to you. Offensive driving is defensive driving in this city. I remember at first Carrie and I were amazed at the things drivers did here. She claimed to be impressed that there were “so few” accidents. But it turns out that there are a lot. Anyway, Monday morning I’m driving in for my first defense (9:15am, and yes it hurt but at least the diss was about space aliens and UFOs) and I found myself weaving in and out of traffic, zipping around. I didn’t feel rushed or aggressive or anything like that. Everyone was just moving so slowly. People were driving below the speed limit. What’s up with that? Anyway, I now can mark the distance between my Pittsburgh self as a driver and my Montreal self as a driver. It is the distance between between someone who is sane and courteous and someone who is batshit crazy.

Second Confession. When I was in the car, I voluntarily listened to the modern rock radio station the whole time I was there. It’s somewhere between metal and modern rock, actually. I chose it mostly because a) as you may know from this very blog, I’ve been really into heavy music for the whole time I’ve been up here, b) I was curious what they were playing and c) I hate surfing around the radio dial while driving. Anyway, this led to several observations, which I present to you in bullet form for easy executive comprehension:

  • Good lord the playlist is narrow.
  • Grunge is the new classic rock. I mean, it sounded like classic rock when it was new, but now it’s become a format. Most of the songs on the station were songs I remembered from the 1990s.
  • I have always and still do hate Alice in Chains’ “The Rooster.” When it came on the radio, I listened to it anyway. Both times.
  • The one thing that’s different is that the station is playing rap. Real rap as in not Nu Metal with rapping over it or Rage Against the Machine (though they did play that), but Cypress Hill and then a bunch of newer stuff I didn’t recognize. This is weird because the audience for this station is pretty much working class white Pittsburgh and there was certainly no rap on this station when I lived in Pittsburgh.

Third Confession My favorite nickname for the Cathedral of Learning is “the dirty tower.” But I still loved going in there every day to work. Its gothic absurdity somehow instilled a feeling of importance for my work. The little dome on the Arts Building at McGill is almost as good, though. Special Arts Building bonus: decades-old soot doesn’t float in my window every time I open it.

Fourth Confession. I know I’m supposed to be disgusted by the famous Pittsburgh portions at restaurants. But it was kind of fun.

and now some facts in Harper’s Index form:

  • Density of PhDs on which I have signed off in the last week: 4 doctorates in 5 days
  • Density of PhDs on which Carol Stabile has signed off in the last week: 4 doctorates in two days
  • Who I thought was the badass: me
  • Who turned out to be the real badass: her
  • Number of consecutive round trips on USAir between Montreal and Pittsburgh on which I have experienced major delays: 3
  • Number of consecutive flights on which USAir has lost my luggage: 2
  • Number of the last four one-way trips between Montreal and Pittsburgh where I have had luggage lost: 3
  • Number of days worth of essential clothing I brought in my carry-on this time: 1
  • Why I still check my luggage: I overpack and my clothes are big
  • Average number of hours of sleep per night during Pittsburgh trip: 6
  • Amount of Thai food I ate in Pittsburgh: a lot
  • Number of words I learned to say in Indonesian: 6
  • English translation of said words: “I am a giant potato salad.”
  • Last two words of this post: Electric Wizard.

3 replies on “Pittsburgh Confessions”

  1. Um, not sure where you got your info on the immaculate reception “that catapulted the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory.” But it’s not accurate. The immaculate reception occurred in an AFC wild card game and the Steelers lost their next game to eventual Super Bowl champions, Miami Dolphins.


    Have a nice day.

  2. Okay this is not Jonathan talking to himself it is Miriam working on jonathans blog commenting as herself.

    I just want to say that the love of classic rock in whatever form has a name, and that name is nostalgia.

    The other day I was making stir-fry and listening to chom fm, and the song November Rain came on.

    By the last 3 minutes (You know where it get’s huge and sonorous and in the video Slash is hewing the Axe on a rainsoaked roof?) I was on my knees on the kitchen tile giving the rock salute and weeping.

    Don’t fight it. But write an angry letter about the rap business, that’s just not right.

  3. Last October in the ‘Burgh I got drink with a woman who had dated Franco Harris’ son. Don’t think I’ve ever gotten drunk with anyone who dated a descendent of GW, but you never know. Maybe that DAR membership is good for something after all?

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